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Focus on Optimizing Movement Not Corrective Exercises

Corrective exercise has become quite a common term and, often times, focus of many training programs.  It’s great to see fitness and strength and conditioning programming making a shift towards helping people feel and move better.  However…

Have we gone too far?

 

What Does the Person Really Want to Achieve?

Focus on Optimizing Movement Not Corrective ExercisesI’m not sure who the first person to say this quote was, but I’ve heard it several times and completely agree:

No one comes to work with you with the goal of a symmetrical 3 on a FMS active straight leg raise test or to get strong outside of the sagittal plane.

Don’t get me wrong, I think we should be thinking this way, but that is not the person training with you’s primary goal.  They usually want to lose weight, get stronger, or simply look better.

Often times we are too guilty of force feeding our training clients what WE want, not what THEY want.  This is a common mistake I see in many young personal trainers and coaches.  It’s great that you want to show off the new information you’ve learned in a seminar, but integrating this into the person’s goals is the real challenge that those with more experience can master.

 

Focus on Optimizing Movement Not Corrective Exercises

I often recommend that personal trainers and strength coaches shift their focus away from corrective exercise and more towards simply optimizing movement.  Without a very thorough examination process, truly identifying injury, poor mechanics, or areas of concern is a challenge.  That is why I often mention the Corrective Exercise Bell Curve, where I discuss how often times corrective exercises are unsuccessful, or worse, counterproductive.

By focusing on optimizing movement, we take away the need to “fix” someone with corrective exercises. [Click to Tweet]

It’s much easier to build a program now to lose weight, get stronger, or look better by programming towards optimizing their movement, rather than “fixing” their problems.  “Fixing” someone often times results in a very limiting program, with the focus on which exercises to avoid rather than which exercises to perform.

Maybe I’m getting carried away, but simply making this quick change in my mindset and focus of my programming has really helped me.

What do you think?

 

5 Ways to Incorporate Movement into Your Programs

My next Inner Circle webinar is tomorrow night and I will discussing 5 Ways to Incorporate Movement in Your Programs. I received a lot of feedback and requests to elaborate on this topic after my past webinar on corrective exercises. I wanted to share 5 ways that you can assure that your program emphasizes enhancing movement quality.

The webinar will be on Tuesday February 23 at 8:00 PM EST. A recording will be posted for those that can not attend live.

 

 

How to Coach and Perform Shoulder Program Exercises

The latest Inner Circle webinar recording on How to Coach and Perform Shoulder Program Exercises is now available.

How to Coach and Perform Shoulder Program Exercises

How to Coach and Perform Shoulder Program ExercisesThis month’s Inner Circle webinar is on How to Coach and Perform Shoulder Program Exercises.  While this seems like a simple topic, the concepts discussed here are key to enhancing shoulder and scapula function.  There are many little tweaks you can perform for shoulder exercises to make them more effective.  If you perform rotator cuff or scapula exercises poorly, you can be facilitating compensatory patterns.  In this webinar, we discuss:

  • How to correctly perform rotator cuff and scapula exercises
  • Coaching cues that you can use to assure proper technique
  • How to enhance exercises by paying attention to technique
  • How to avoid compensation patterns and assure shoulder program exercises are as effective as possible

To access this webinar:

 

 

 

How “Movement Age” Impacts Program Design

Any half way decent strength and conditioning program must be individualized to the unique needs and goals of the trainee.  Developing programs that specifically address our clients’ “goals” is fairly straightforward, however, mastering how to design programs that also consider their “needs” can really take you to the next level as a personal trainer or strength coach.

When designing training programs, we often begin individualizing based on age.  That’s a great place to start, but there are many limitations with just using age.  I want to review how we design programs using “age” by starting with a review of chronological, biological, and training age.

More importantly, I wanted to introduce a new “age” we use at Champion called “movement age.”  This may be the most important, yet most neglected as well.

 

Chronological and Biological Age

Movement Age Program DesignAt the very beginning of the spectrum when discussing the “age” of your client is their actual chronological age, which is their precise age.  While this probably isn’t as big of an issue when discussing the training program of two people aged 34 and 38, it is much more relevant when comparing two people aged 14 and 18.

Chronological age is a good place to start, obviously, but their biological age is far more important. The anatomical maturity of a 14 year old is quite different from an 18 year old and does become a variable that must be adjusted for within your program design.

Line up 6 kids that are aged 14 and you’ll see the difference.  One looks like he is 10 years old, another looks 18, and the rest all fall somewhere in between.  According to the data accumulated at Wikipedia, girls will go through puberty between the ages of 10 and 16, while boys tend to go through puberty between the ages of 11 and 17.  That’s a 6 year range!

Our focus with those with a low chronological age is different that the older high school athletes.  While strength and power tend to become more of the focus in the older trainee, we focus on what we call the ABC’s of movement with our younger trainees, focusing on Agility, Balance, and Coordination.  Strength training is included but the results are obviously going to be limited by the hormonal and skeletal maturation differences.

But, I urge you to not downplay this stage of athletic development.  Developing the basics of movement skills is important and unfortunately this generation of children are not getting the same development as past generations.  In fact, our younger athletes at Champion see some of the biggest changes in athleticism.  These programs are impactful.

Here are my 2 and 6 year olds working on their athleticism!

So it’s apparent that chronological age has limited usefulness and biological age is a much better place to start.  However, chronological age does not take into consideration the experience of the trainee.

 

Training Age

As chronological age becomes less relevant with older trainees, the next variable to consider is their experience in training.  Image the difference in two individuals:

  • Trainee 1 – 28 year old – Wants to lose 10 pounds – Did not participate in athletics growing up, has never participated in a strength and conditioning program, currently has desk job.
  • Trainee 2 – 28 year old – Wants to lose 10 pounds – Was athletic growing up playing multiple sports in high school, and club sports for fun in college, trained at a sports performance center through high school, hasn’t trained consistently in 10 years.
  • Trainee 3 – 28 year old – Wants to lose 10 pounds – Was athletic growing up playing multiple sports in high school, and club sports for fun in college, trained at a sports performance center through high school, consistently trained through college and has continued since college.

We have people that are 28 years old and want to lose 10 pounds.  Same age, same goal.  Do they all start with the same program?  Of course not.

Training age takes into consideration the experience of the trainee.  Have they strength trained before?  Do they know how to perform the lifts with proper form?  Do they know how to exert force with intent (more on this in a future post…)?

Remember the success of your programs are based around how the body adapts to the stress applied.  You can pretty much do anything to Trainee 1 to stimulation enough stress to make a change, which is good because they have a lot to learn!  On the other end of the spectrum, Trainee 3 has a great understanding of how to train and has been exposing his body to different stresses for years.  To make progress in this trainee, you’ll likely need a more complicated periodization scheme to create a different stimulus for their body.

I have discussed these concepts in the past in my article Does Periodization of a Program Help Improve Strength and in more detail in an Inner Circle Webinar on Periodization for Strength Training and Rehabilitation.

There is one HUGE flaw with training age.  Just because you have been training for several years does not mean you understand how to train, or even that you know proper technique!

Don’t assume that since someone has been training consistently for years that they have been training correctly!

This is a common finding in people that have dabbled in strength training in the past and are starting a formal program or starting to work with a personal trainer or strength coach for the first time.

 

Movement Age

Poor Movement SkillsThe last age we consider when designing strength and conditioning programs is one of the most important, but often neglected.  We can have an advanced trainee in regard to chronological age, biological age, and training age, however, can they move well?  At Champion, we’ve started to use the terminology “Movement Age” to discuss someone’s ability to move.

We don’t even have to make this too complicated – can they hinge, squat, lunge, step, rotate, push, and pull?

We simply define the ability to “move” as using proper form through the movement’s full range of motion.  This then becomes a scale:

  • Can they move with assistance?
  • Can they move without assistance?
  • Can they move without assistance with load?
  • Can they move without assistance with load and speed?

When it comes to program design, “movement age” trumps training age every time. [Click here to tweet this]

It’s amazing how our movement skills have deteriorated.  How many of your high school athletes can touch their toes?  Isn’t it amazing?!?

In order to advance from beginner, to intermediate, to advanced trainee in our Champion program design system, you need to demonstrate maturation of your chronological, biological, training, and movement age.

On the Performance Therapy side of Champion, we work with a lot of athletes that want to optimize themselves and get the most out of their bodies.  It’s amazing how many of the “advanced” athletes we see have poor movement skills.  They don’t hinge well, or squat well past neutral, or can’t even balance themselves in a half kneeling position!

This can lead to imbalances, asymmetries, and compensation patterns that can suck performance, lead to tissue overuse, and eventually breakdown.  This is especially true if you try to just blast through your poor movement skills and add load and speed to your lifts.

Sometimes we don’t need an advanced and complicated strength training periodization scheme, sometimes we just need to clean up movement patterns.  Consider this taking one step back to take 5 huge steps forward.  Movement age may be the most important variable to consider when designing strength and conditioning programs.

 

 

 

3 Systems You Need to Have in Place to Be an Elite Strength Coach

Systems.  That’s a word I say VERY frequently throughout the day at Champion PT and Performance.  Our center revolves around systems.

The two biggest mistakes I see with new personal trainers and strength coaches are very simple:

  • They don’t have a plan
  • They don’t have a system of developing a plan

One of my biggest pet peeves in this industry is just slapping together a bunch of exercises without a solid rationale.  This often happens when you pick the exercise first.  Maybe you just went to a new continuing education course and learned a new exercise, or you just read a new article on the web, or saw an exciting new exercise on Youtube.  You’re excited and want to try this shiny new exercise.

The second phase of our coaching evolution often revolves around understanding the fact that it’s better to build a solid program first, then fill in the exercises second.

That’s great, you’re evolving.  But…  my second biggest pet peeve is writing programs month-to-month.  I use the phrase “start with the end in mind” quite often when it comes to program design.  Most of our clients have clear goals that we should be prioritizing when designing their program.

If their season starts in 4-months, or their wedding is in 12-weeks, to achieve the best results we should assure the program is designed to peak and maximize their performance at the perfect time.  You can’t do this when writing programs month-to-month.  You need to have the program mapped out ahead of time.  Sure, you’ll probably tweak the program a few times as the client progresses, that’s the art of coaching, but it’s always better to start with the end in mind.

 

3 Systems You Need to Have in Place to Be an Elite Strength Coach

I really think that if you want to become an elite strength coach or personal trainer (or heck, physical therapist…), you need to have a few systems in place.  It really all comes down to developing systems to allow you to quickly and easily provide your expertise in a consistent and reliable fashion.

 

You Need to Have a Program Design System

Program design systemWhen we are just starting out in this field, program design is one of the most challenging aspects your job.  It’s because you don’t have a system in place and try to re-create the wheel each and every time you write someone a program.

It’s daunting,

You don’t need to sit down and start from scratch with each and every client.  You need a program design system to accomplishes the goals you’ve established and style of training you provide.

 

You Need to Have a Periodization System

Periodization SystemOnce you understand how to design a program, the next system to master is how to string together multiple programs.  This is essentially periodization.

Again, you don’t need to get fancy and mix this up for each and every client.  I’ve overview a a little bit of my periodization system for strength and rehabilitation in an Inner Circle webinar.

There are periodization schemes that fit well with specific goals and specific clients.  Developing a system of categorizing all this is the next step in becoming an elite coach.

 

You Need to Have a Coaching System

Assessing overhead shoulder mobilityLastly, it doesn’t matter how good of a program you can write, or how well you periodize the program, your results are going to suffer if you don’t know how to coach.

The third system that I think you need to reach that elite level is a coaching system.  This involves developing a consistent approach to cueing, analyzing technique, making adjustments, progressing and regressing exercises on the fly, and connecting with you clients in general.

Just like anything else, this can be a system as well.

 

How to Develop Your Own Systems

Systems take time and experience to develop.  This is natural.  But finding an excellent mentor and always seeking out continuing education is a great step.  You have to find what works for you.

I’ve learned so much from some of the experts in the field by studying their systems.  I am always assessing how other people do things and trying to determine which aspects of their system I can adopt and integrate into what I am currently doing myself.

Alwyn Cosgrove has done a great job outlining his systems in his educational work.  Mike Boyle has as well.  But the person that I can say I have probably learned the most from over the years is Mike Robertson.  As my readers know, I really connect to Mike’s style of coaching, ability to teach information, and his focus on developing his own systems.

 

Physical Preparation 101

physical preparation 101Luckily for us, Mike has just released his latest DVD which completely overviews his program design and coaching systems.  And when I say “completely overviews,” I mean it!  Mike has just release Physical Preparation 101, a whopping 12-DVD set that discussing exactly how Mike has built his systems.

I watched almost all of the 12 DVDs over the weekend and can say that if you don’t currently have a system in place, this is the resource you should invest in to begin developing your system.

The program is $100 off this week for the launch and a must have for all of our educational libraries.  Click below to save $100:

 

 

 

 

 

Does Periodization of a Program Help Improve Strength?

When designing programs to enhance strength, there are many variables that you can (and should) manipulate to facilitate improvement.  These can obviously include the sets and reps (volume), loads (intensity), frequency, and rest time (density).  However, how we periodize these variables is also very important.  Periodization is the systematic structuring of how you plan on manipulating these variables over time.

You probably know me well enough by now to know that I value systems and planning.  One of our fundamental principles in program design at Champion is to “begin with the end in mind.”  It drives me crazy to see programs written month-to-month without a goal in mind.

So it makes sense to develop a system of how you plan on periodizing your strength training, wether in the personal training, sports performance, or even rehabilitation setting.

While the strength and conditioning world has really embraced the concept of periodization, physical therapists are notorious for a complete lack of periodization.  It’s not uncommon to perform “3 sets of 10” in the rehabilitation setting forever.

Perform a Google search for strength training periodization and you’ll find a sea of conflicting terminology that is likely to make you dizzy.  Linear periodization, reverse linear periodization, non-linear periodization, undulated periodization, conjugated periodization, concurrent periodization, and block periodization are some of the many types of periodization programs that you can find.

Unfortunately there is little consensus on terminology or definition, feeding the confusion for people looking to learn about periodization even more.  Add to that the ability to essentially say anything you want on the internet without needing any scientific validity and you’ll find a dozen different “best” ways to get strong.

But the real question still remains – does strength training periodization even matter?  And if so, what type of periodization is best?

 

Effect of Periodized Versus Non-periodized Programs on Strength

Since the rehabilitation setting does such as poor job at implementing periodization into programs when returning from injury, we should start by establishing the need for periodization.

Anytime I have a research question in regard to Strength and Conditioning, I head over to Chris Beardsley and Bret Contreras’ website Strength and Conditioning Research.  Chris has an excellent article on our current scientific understanding on strength training.

The article reviewed 7 studies comparing periodized and non-periodized programs on strength in untrained individuals.  Of these studies, 4 reported significant benefits of periodization over no periodization.

Similarly, there were 7 studies comparing periodized and non-periodized program on strength in trained individuals.  Of these 7 studies, 4 reported significant benefits of periodization and the remainder reported no differences. Using periodization may therefore have a beneficial effect on strength gains in both the trained and untrained population.

I wouldn’t say the research is overwhelming, but leans towards at least some form of periodization being more effective than using no periodization at all.  I think we would all anecdotally agree with this as well.

 

Effect of Linear Versus Non-Linear Periodization

Now that we have established we should use some form of periodization, the focus now shifts on determining what the best form of periodization may be to improve strength.

Lets simplify, and perhaps oversimplify, the forms of periodization for this conversation as either linear periodization or non-linear periodization.

Linear periodization refers to the slow decrease in reps and increase in load.  For example a 4-phase program may look like this:

  • Program 1 – 3 x 12 with a light load
  • Program 2 – 3 x 8 with a moderate load
  • Program 3 – 4 x 5 with a moderate to heavy load
  • Program 4 – 5 x 3 with a heavy load

Linear Periodization

As the reps go down, the weight goes up.  This has been the most classic form of periodization used for the last several decades.

Antagonists to the linear periodization model often point out that the benefits seen early in the program in regard to strength and hypertrophy are not maintained throughout the program as the focus continuously shifts from program to program.

This has lead to several variations of non-linear periodization, including one of the most common, undulated periodization.  Undulated periodization involves continuously shift the focus of the program on either a daily or weekly cycle.

A weekly undulated periodization program may look like this:

  • Week 1 – 2×15
  • Week 2 – 3×8
  • Week 3 – 5×5

While a daily undulated periodization program may look like this:

  • Monday – 2×15
  • Wednesday 3×8
  • Friday 5×5

Undulated Periodization

While many have stated that undulated periodization is more beneficial at eliciting strength gains, does the research agree?

A recent meta-analysis was publish in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.  They reviewed hundreds of articles and ultimately select 17 that met all their strict criteria for analysis.

Of these 17 articles, here are a few bits of information:

  • 12 compared linear periodization to daily undulating periodization.  3 compared linear to weekly undulating.  1 study compared all 3.
  • 7 studies were on untrained people (<1 year experience), 10 on trained (> 1 year), and no studies included advanced trainees (>5 years).
  • 16 out of 17 studies reported significant increase in strength in both linear and undulated periodization.  12 studies found no difference between the two periodization models.  3 found undulating better than linear and 2 found the opposite.

The overall meta-analysis also agree and the article concluded that there is no difference in strength gains between linear and undulated periodization.

However, when analyzing trained individuals, people that had previous experience with linear periodization had an improvement in strength when switching to undulated periodization.  There was no difference between the linear or undulated periodization in untrained individuals.

Based on this it appears that as your training age increases, you may need to change your training stimulus to maximize your gains.  However, linear periodization will work fine in new trainees.

Realize that the majority of articles you read on the internet are geared towards the very small percentage of people that fit into the advanced trainee grouping, when in reality, this is not what 95% of us see on a regular basis, especially in the rehabilitation and general population personal training worlds.  Sure, advanced periodization programs are needed to get from 500 lbs to 600 lbs on a lift, but probably not as much from getting from 100 lbs to 200 lbs.

Linear periodization offers a great way to introduce and teach movement patterns with a lower load and higher rep scheme, then as the movement skill is perfected, the load can safely increase.

 

Periodization for Strength Training and Rehabilitation

Because the topic of periodization is so large, important, and so often neglected in the rehab and personal training setting, I have a past Inner Circle Webinar on Periodization for Strength Training and Rehabilitation.  In this webinar, I am going to discuss the above concepts in much more detail and show you how we periodize some of our programs for healthy people and those coming back from injury in the physical therapy setting.

 

 

 

 

6 Things You Do That Your Clients Hate

6 thing you do that your clients hateIt’s funny, over the years you start to accumulate several thoughts on a subject that one can only do through experience.  The old saying “if only I knew then what I knew now” is certainly true.  I often laugh at some of the things I did and say to my clients when I was less experienced.  We were having this discussion with our students at Champion the other day, and I consider this a normal part of your career advancement.

In addition to reflecting on your own personal practice, I think there is also a lot to learn about from your clients when they tell you their past experiences with other professionals.

I tend to see a lot of clients that have tried other health care and fitness professionals and for whatever reason find themselves with me after not achieved the results that they wanted.  In my experience, this is often due to a few reasons:

  1. They didn’t listen
  2. They didn’t connect
  3. They didn’t put in the time

 

Notice how none of these things are “clinical” in nature.  Sure, I see my fair share of clients that were not diagnosed well or treated properly, but in all reality, I’m not perfect either.  But I listen, connect, and put in the time.  This allows my the luxury of being able to call an audible with my clients when I feel we may have started down the wrong path.  They trust me.  If they didn’t trust me, they’d move on to the next clinician.

How about these two comments I received recently from clients about their past experiences with other professionals.

  • “All my therapist did was tell me what I was doing wrong.  I know what I am doing wrong, that’s why I went to therapy.”
  • “I left my last therapist and always felt bad about myself.  They made me feel bad about myself.”

 

For the young clinicians (and I guess the more experienced one’s too!), I want to share some of the things I have picked up over the years that clients hate.  Remember, you need to connect in order to do you best with your clients.  Learn from my mistakes and errors and avoid these 6 things you do that your clients hate!

 

Stare at Your Device

I can’t think of a worse way to start off your experience with a healthcare professional than having them stare at their computer and typing while asking you a series of questions.  Not a great way to connect and help your client feel like your are compassionate about them, rather than just trying to finish your “task” of their evaluation.  I still take notes briefly when pencil and paper and do my documentation afterwards.  Sure, it takes more time out of my day, but it’s the right thing to do.

This also goes for staring at your phone their whole session.  You could be responding to a highly urgent and work-related email, but realize your clients will just assume your are posting pics of your kittens on Facebook.  Excuse yourself and respond to an urgent message if you must, but don’t do it right in front of your client.  This looks like they are not important to you at the moment.  Otherwise, keep your phone in your pocket.

I’m not sure if the Apple Watch is going to help us here or hurt us, we’ll see!

Your client needs to feel like they are the most important person in the world to you during their session.

 

Don’t Listen to Them

Your first interaction with someone is really important for several reasons.  Obviously you need to determine where to start with your client, but it’s also the most critical interaction to development a connection.

This starts with letting them talk.  You want to hear their story.  Some will want to get right to the point, while others will want to elaborate.  Let this happen.  Don’t interrupt if you can, and let them lead the discussion.

As I get more experience, the subjective portion of my exam could really only last 30 seconds for me to have enough information to start looking at the client.  However, I have learned that a big part of connecting with your clients is listening to your client.  You need to provide the platform for them to share what they want with you.

 

Force Feed What You Want Instead of What They Want

It’s not about you.  Starting with this simple concept is a great start.

As an example, perhaps a client comes to you and says “kinesiology tape really makes me feel better.”  How do you think they’ll respond when you say, “Your shoulder pain is coming from signals in your brain, kinesiology tape won’t help that and doesn’t really do anything.”  Ummm, probably poorly.

You said that kinesiology tape “doesn’t do anything” and they said it “really helps.”  That sounds like conflict, not connecting, to me.

In all honesty, we don’t know as much as we think we do about the human body.  I have no problem providing a treatment, such as kinesiology tape, if there will be no harm, no long term consequence, and there is no definitive research saying it is ineffective.  Obviously, if scientific evidence is available to completely say something is ineffective that changes the topic.

Don’t get me wrong, I will do what I want to do with that client, but may also try some kinesiology tape as well.  Perhaps that makes my treatments even more effective.

Another great example in the fitness world is the focus on movement and corrective exercises.  I think this is great, but don’t lose focus.  If someone comes to you for fat loss and all you talk about is how poor they move and how you want to fix their asymmetrical 1 on the FMS straight leg raise, you are forcing what you want on the client, and not focusing on what they want.  They don’t give care at all about what their straight leg raise looks like.

Again, I think you should work on that movement pattern.  But that can’t be the focus of the program.  It has to meet their goals first.  Sure, we sneak our goals into our programs too, but be careful here.

 

Tell Them Everything That is Wrong with Them and Nothing That is Right

I think we all get carried away sometimes with finding “deficits” during our assessments and evaluations.  That is normal.  But we need to be careful with how we present this to our clients.

Some people will focus too much on the little things, while others will seem just feel bad about themselves.

Every client should leave your facility feeling better, more optimistic, and in a good mood.  You want to be one of the best parts of your clients’ days.

I’ve actually talked about this in the past in an article on The Dale Carnegie Approach to Assessments.

 

Talk Over Their Head

As you can see, communication and people skills are pretty valuable in our professions.  Another area that I often see as being an issues is not bringing the discussion to your client’s level.

Just like you should be trying to match your clients’ energy levels, I also try to bring my discussion to their level as well.

Students and young clinicians are often guilty of this for a few of reasons:

  1. They are used to talked scientifically to justify what they are doing to their professors
  2. They haven’t accumulated that database of analogies we all use on our heads
  3. Unfortunately, they are a little too egotistical and trying to impress the person with how much they know

Confusing someone and talking over their head is not going to impress someone.  Some people like to hear all the detailed scientific things, while others just shut you out.  You need to feel this out and adjust.  However, your ability to convey your points and messages in a manner that connects with each person will impress them.

I use several different tools to accomplish this based on how I feel the conversation is going, but my go-to methods are:

  1. Using pictures and videos during my evaluation
  2. Using analogies to compare a complicated point to one they understand.  Car analogies work well!  Things like, “it’s like driving with your wheels out of alignment, eventually your tires are going to wear down unevenly.”
  3. Using a whiteboard to express thoughts.  This doesn’t always just mean drawing a picture.  I also often write and make lists.  Some people are more visual learners.  You can usually tell when they whip out their phone to take a pic of the whiteboard when you are done!

They key is to give them the science but don’t stop there, back it up with something they can understand.

 

Criticize Their Other Healthcare Professionals and Past Experience

I’m surprised at how common this point is in our professions.  I have many clients that have commented on how other professionals they have worked with in the past just criticize everyone else they have and had worked with in the past.  Like a personal training putting down their physical therapist or their physical therapist putting down their chiropractor, as a couple of examples.  Realize that your client has probably built up a lot of trust and respect over the years for the other people they are working with, which have not currently built up.

Not only does this make the person feel bad about their past choices (see above), but it’s also very transparent that you are just slamming someone else to try to make yourself look good.

I have a general rule of thumb that I developed over the years after seeing many “prestigious” people commit this error – Don’t make others look bad to make yourself look better.  It may work in the short term, but always catches up to you.

Yes, you are a genius when you have the power of hindsight.  Everything is clearer in retrospect.  Be respectful of their other people your client is seeing and has seen, you aren’t always right.

 

In reality, I probably could have listed another dozen, but these are a great start.  Avoid these 6 things that you do that your clients hate and focus on connecting, listening, and putting in the time to maximize your own effectiveness in helping people achieve their goals.

 

 

 

When Should You Fit Agility Training into a Program?

Today’s guest post is from Lee Taft and Pat Beith, from Athletes Acceleration.  Lee and Pat are the gurus on speed and agility training, so an article from these guys is truly an honor to include on my website.  Speed and agility training are often one of the missing components to strength and performance programs that I never really understood, consider they are such an import part of complete athletic development.  That being said, the rehab world is REALLY missing the boat in this area.  Speed and agility are two qualities that are significantly impacted after injury, yet so often ignored in advanced rehab programs.  Lee and Pat have a new product out this week called Complete Speed Training, which I have watched and really enjoyed.  More below.

 

When Should You Fit Agility Training into a Program?

speed and agility drills

I certainly get asked many questions about my techniques and how I teach agility, but one of the biggest questions I get asked is when do I put agility in my program. I get this from the fitness professional but more so from the sport coach. It is the sport coach that wants to know how to find time to fit agility into an already packed practice plan. In this article I want to share several ways I implement agility into any program, and why it is a must to find time.

Most sport coaches are so excited to practice the newest offense or defense or implement new drills they discovered. But many of them bypass one of the most important elements of making a good team- improving team speed, agility, and quickness. The question that always comes back to me is when do I fit it in my practice. The problem comes from coaches that feel you must put quantity ahead of quality. Those who know me realize I am all about quality. I want great movers. I can condition them easy enough, but to make them great at moving- it takes time and attention to detail.

I will give you some times slots that agility training can fit neatly into a practice and make a big impact. But before I do, let me explain the mind set that goes into scheduling agility during a sport practice. If my goal is to improve the movement ability of the athletes I need to focus on the skill or technique of the movement pattern. For example; if I am a volleyball coach and I want my players to move quicker to tipped balls I must teach them how to react quickly out of the defensive ready position. My focus then will be on a few things;

  1. I want the athletes to have appropriate body positions so they can move efficiently.
  2. I want 100% effort or intensity of speed when reacting and moving to the ball.
  3. I want complete control of the movement so a counter move can be made if needed.

Now, let’s focus on scheduling agility into a practice. One of the best times to implement agility is right after the warm up routine. The athletes are fresh and you can make a big impact on their nervous system. A great way to implement the agility is to pick a skill that you want to teach and be really focused on that skill for the 2-5 minutes you allow for training it. Once again, go back to the 3 points I made in the last paragraph. I want the athletes learning to move better each and every repetition. I don’t want them to just do work. A great example of an agility workout I use often is teaching the crossover technique. I would set it up like this:

  1. Have 2-4 athletes performing at the same time (if it was a large team like soccer or football I would have more than one station with assistants watching as well. You might have to deal with more than 2-4 athletes if you don’t have any coaching assistants).
  2. The exercise should be clearly explained and demonstrated if needed.
  3. It is important to give them a setting in which the skill would be used in a sport. This helps clarify the purpose of the skill.
  4. Give them the distance of travel that should be covered and the duration of the exercise.
  5. Start the exercise from a great starting stance/athletic stance.
  6. If you see a dysfunctional crossover technique, address that athlete by name immediately and give one quick coaching cue to correct the movement.
  7. If you see a consistent theme of poor movements by most of the athletes, re-demonstrate and continue on with the exercise.
  8. Complete 4-6 reps making sure each rep is quality or at least quality instruction is being given to correct poor patterns.
  9. Build a foundation of movement that greater skills can be built upon.

This way of coaching the skills make the athlete concentrate 100% of their energy on one skill or combination of skills. If you teach too many different skills and you run the athletes through without emphasizing the technique and intensity of effort, the meaning of the skills is lost. Do exercises to get a point across and to teach something!

Let’s keep moving along with times to inject agility into a practice. Another great time to coach agility is just before or after a drink break. The way that I like to mention it to the athletes is like this; .Ok guys/gals, before we take our drink break I want you to put all your focus into an extremely important skill we are about to learn- then we will take a good breather and get hydrated.. By phrasing it this way, I have put a sense of importance on the skill and the athletes better be focused and prepared to give 2-5 more minutes of attention to the skill.

There is no doubt that the best time to make a big improvement and impact on the learning of a skill is when the athlete is in a non-fatigued state. But athletes need to learn how to move efficiently during fatigued times of a game, like in the final minutes. So the last time I would like to mention as to when a coach could implement agility is at the end of the practice. I strongly recommend not teaching a new skill at this time due to the lack of focus generally associated with the end of practice.

If the athletes are comfortable with the agility skill to be used I do feel there is some importance to having them perform it at the end. But as mentioned already don’t throw a new skill at them and expect great learning to occur when they are fatigued. Let me give some important points to implement this method of agility training:

  1. Because the athletes are tired and don’t have as much mental focus left you must give them something to focus on. For example; if you are coaching them on a hip turn and crossover to defend a basketball player making an offensive move to the basket you must talk to them about a defense scheme. In other words you are trying to coach the skill, but by giving the athletes a scenario that will occur in the game they will have a built in focus point due to the game-like setting.
  2. Be sure to stop the exercise if the execution gets sloppy. Always remember the brain is programming the patterns. If they are sloppy that is how they will be programmed in the brain. Demand great execution.
  3. It is important to ask the athletes what they did wrong if the execution was poor. This way you are holding them accountable for their improvement. This is especially important when doing the skill work under fatigue. You force them to be aware of everything they do.

So there are a few ways you can implement agility training into a sports practice setting. Now let me talk about when agility training should be in the athletic development setting.

Just as mentioned above, the agility can be included in a non-fatigued state or in a fatigued state. Both are important but must have protocol. When first introducing the skill it should obviously be done in the early part of the training session. Once learned and performed well it can be done in a fatigued state to induce a concentration element.

Here are a few rules I follow when coaching agility in an athletic development setting:

  1. I will only coach 2-3 agility drills per session. I want the athletes to learn something and not be inundated with too much stimulus. When they only concentrate on a couple things they can absorb them and put a meaning to them. I believe it is important to always give them a situation the skill would be used in a sport. This helps them to relate to it much easier.
  2. I keep my time frames in the 5-12 second range and demand intensity of effort or speed. I want effort for a couple reasons:
    a. This is how I get a read on their true ability with the skill
    b. They learn the skill at full speed. Doing a skill half speed makes it a different skill in many ways.
  3. I want the athletes to understand self-correction on the fly. This means if the athletes screw the skill up on one rep he or she can quickly make the needed correction during the set. This is why I ask them questions about the skills- I want accountability.
  4. The total time of agility training is usually around 15 to 20 minutes. This includes coaching time and feedback. I don’t believe in making an agility session in conditioning. When it is time for conditioning I will work on low risk exercises that cause an anaerobic threshold response.

So there you have it. This is by no means the only way to do this but it is the only way I do it. And it has worked for many years. The number one message to take from this article is to teach skills. Don’t waste the athletes. time with doing aimless drills without a message. You will do a great job!

 

Complete speed trainingComplete Speed Training

If you want to learn even more about speed and agility training from the guru’s themselves, Pat and Lee have just released their new Complete Speed Training program and it’s a goldmine of great info.

 

About the Authors

Click the links to learn more about Lee TaftPat Beith, and Athletes Acceleration.

 

 

 

3 Mistakes Coaches Make When Training Women

Tony GentilcoreToday’s guest post comes from strength and conditioning guru Tony Gentilcore.  As one of the premier strength coaches and co-founder of Cressey Sports Performance, Tony knows how to train people and get results.  There are many misconceptions in strength training women.  Tony provides a great article on some of the mistakes he commonly sees when coaching female clients.

 

3 Mistakes Coaches Make When Training Women

Before I begin lets address the obvious.  I’m not a woman.  I’m a dude. And as such, like most dudes, I have a strong affinity for old school Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, Star Wars, Rocky I, II, III, and IV (but not V), Rocky Balboa was eh, beef jerky, tanks, and leaving the toilet seat up. 

To save face, however, I’m not what you would call a “guys guy.” I like to buy flowers for my girlfriend just because, I’ve watched every episode of Sex and the City (true story), and, while I’m sure I’m going to catch some flak for admitting this and run the risk of losing my Man Card, I’m rather fond of the occasional pedicure (also, true story!).

Pop culture references and societal norm commentary aside, I’ve been in the fitness industry for a little over twelve years now, and in that time I’ve trained my fair share women.  Some have been elite athletes – ranging anywhere from world-class triathletes to Olympic hopefuls – in addition to both collegiate and high school athletes. Moreover I’ve also worked with a gulf of women in the general fitness population from varying demographics with any number of varying goals and needs (not to mention training experience).

On top of that, throughout my career, outside of my current role as strength coach (and co-founder) at Cressey Sports Performance, I’ve had the opportunity to work with female athletes and clients in both the corporate and commercial gym setting.

In short:  I’ve seen it all and feel I have a well-rounded perspective on the topic of “female specific” training. 

It’s on that note I’d like to discuss some of the universal mistakes I’ve observed numerous coaches and trainers make when it comes to working with and training female clients.  Here are my top 3 mistakes coaches make when training women.

 

Buying Into the Term “Female Specific” Training

do-women-need-to-train-different-than-menI don’t deny the fact there’s an array of differences between the female and male body – both anatomically and physiologically.

Boys have boy down there parts and girls have girl down there parts. We all learned that fairly young in life. Also, hormonally speaking, there’s quite a bit of diversity between men and women – the most obvious of which is the different levels of testosterone and estrogen.

Although estrogens are thought of as female sex hormones and androgens are considered male hormones, both men and women make hormones in both groups, with different ratios depending on gender.

Men have much higher levels of testosterone (which explains why it’s much easier for men to add muscle and stay a lower body fat level), and women have higher levels of estrogen.  We don’t need to go into the deep science on hormones for the sake of this article, but we’d be remiss not to at least note that hormones do enter the equation.

When working with females one (or more) of the following scenarios will affect how we go about training them:

  • Athletic Amenorrhea (losing your period).
  • Pregnancy Training
  • Training for Menopause
  • Menstrual cycle (this will HIGHLY dictate training and nutrition).

We DO need to consider “stuff,” and we absolutely should not make light of any of the above talking points.

However, I don’t really buy into the whole “female specific” training mindset – especially if we’re referring to a healthy, non-injured client/athlete.

The human body is the human body and whenever I work with a female client I treat her just as I treat my male clients. I assess them, look at their movement quality, figure out if there are any red flags from a postural and alignment standpoint, and if we’re in the clear, they’re going to squat, deadlift, push, pull, carry, and lunge just like everyone else.

I don’t do “girl” pushups with my female clients.  I do pushups (and progress and regress accordingly).  I don’t do “light weight/high reps” because they’re girls, either.  They TRAIN just like everyone else.

Which serves as nice segue to my next point.

 

Stop Using Terms Like “Sexy” and “Toned”

Walk into any grocery or convenience store and peruse the magazine shelves and you’re bound to notice an endless barrage of words like “sexy” and “toned” directed towards women.

Conversely, guys are inundated with terms like “jacked” and “chiseled” and “gainzzzz” and other bro-tastic adjective you can think of.

For women, I don’t like the connotation the mainstream media beats over their heads.  And I certainly don’t like the message it conveys. Is it any wonder why so many women (young and old) are programmed into thinking they have to look a certain way to fit our lame societal norms? It sucks.

When I start working with a female client I try to gravitate towards terms like “strength” or “athletic” or “performance”…..because I feel they’re more empowering and have a less nefarious tone to them.

And speaking of performance……

 

Stress It!!!!

If there’s one thing I can universally point to that separates female clients from male clients it’s that male clients compare themselves to themselves, while female clients compare themselves to other females.

Put another way, most of the time (not always) male clients will be more concerned with what he weighed last month or what he lifted last week. He’ll almost always lean towards being more temporal minded and compare himself to himself.

This isn’t to say that guys aren’t competitive with other guys – I’ve seen way too many improvisational “deadlift offs” to state otherwise. But rather, generally speaking, most male athletes and clients are more concerned with competing against himself and setting performance based goals.

Conversely, most women (not all) are more societal comparative.  Meaning they’ll lean more towards comparing themselves to other women.

And don’t play it off as it that’s not true ladies!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out with my girlfriend walking around the city and out of nowhere she’ll blurt out something like “That girl should not be wearing that!”  When was the last time you heard a guy do that?  Never.  NEVER!!!!!!  Crocs don’t count.

But back to my main point.

As an example I once had a 50+ year-old female client get flummoxed whenever she trained at the same time as a 22 year-old ex-Division I decathlete.  She’d routinely compare herself to the younger woman and wonder why she didn’t look like her despite being twice her age!  Mind you, she looked amazing!  She’d always get compliments on her work ethic and physique – but sadly they fell on deaf ears.

To help combat this mentality, as a coach I continually make an effort to not place precedence on physique or weight goals, but rather performance goals – especially with women.  Of course if someone’s goal is to lose weight for health reasons or they’re a physique competitor, I’m all for it. Their training will reflect that goal. 

However, I often find that by stressing performance based goals like being able to perform their first unassisted, bodyweight chinup or squatting 1x their bodyweight for reps or being able to conquer their first Tough Mudder, it sets a much better tone moving forward.

In general I find that strength is an often UNDER-stressed quality pursued by women (and men), and I LOVE when a woman finally has that “light bulb” moment and recognizes that strength is a beautiful thing and something to be revered and embraced.

When that happens, cool things follow.